This post is about the treasure at the end of the rainbow as mentioned in the last article
June – October 2015
“ A gathering place for travellers to feel at home. An utopia where friendships are born daily and creative minds work together to build, inspire and bring out ones inner self. Surroundings so comfortably where introverts open the gates to their thoughts and become extroverts. “
I lived in a special house the last few months. It is called Crunchy Town and is inhabited by 20-30 people from all around the world, travelers like me. Some of them stay only a few days, many stay longer than planned, weeks or even months. It is an international community, started by Sam, an Australian who has previously lived in a similar house in Vancouver, Canada.
Normally you get in through Couchsurfing.cThat is a social platform that allows people to offer other people a place to sleep. It is about hospitality, intercultural exchanges and new friendships.
Just the night before I planned to go to Melbourne I had sent a Couchsurfing request to Sam and minutes later I was accepted.
“Welcome to CrunchyTown! We are happy to accept your request just a couple of things you should know before you get here.
We’re always busy so expect to be social and get involved with activities provided by CrunchyTown. If you’re lucky you’ll get a bed but consider yourself lucky if you are getting this message :). Another important thing since we are always full it is up to you to store your baggage out of the way. We have plenty of storage space under the beds.
If you plan on staying longer than 3 nights we have a donation system we can talk about it When You Get Here. We are a community house so everything from cooking to cleaning is done together ask how you can help. Looking forward to meeting and having a good time with you. See you soon”
When I arrive in the afternoon I get a friendly welcome and a tour of the house. The kitchen and living room are full of people, on a second floor there are five rooms, inhabited by persons who stay longer and pay rent for it. Then there’s the Moon Room, a large party room with sound system, couches, movie projector and a foosball table. Adjacent two rooms for couchsurfers, equipped with self-made bunk beds constructed out of old timber.
There is a gap in the fence into the garden of the neighbouring property. On a rotary clothes dryer laundry flatters in the wind – almost always it is full. Here is a second house, called the temple and it has even more rooms and a second kitchen. In the driveway a large van is parked, bicycles stand around in the garden.
But what makes this place special are of course the residents. In the evening almost all are home, someone has cooked and there is a great feast for all. Pork roast, baked potatoes, salad and a few more dishes. Music is playing, the mood is good, there is a lot of laughter. The kitchen is chaotic but after dinner everyone helps cleaning.
I’m overwhelmed by the hustle and bustle and so many new people. It is enough for me to listen to the conversations and observe. For me, as a newcomer, it seems as if the others know each other for years. Everyone greets each other with a hug, there is a lot of body contact. Here a person put his arm around the shoulder while talking to someone, there people share a cigarette.
Although on my journey I often have to bring myself in into a new group I find it is not always so easy. But here in Crunchytown people make it easy. Everyone is very open and interested, there is always enough to talk and stories to exchange and plenty of opportunities to get to know each other.
It’s one of those places where time flies and I stay longer than planned.
Every day is different in Crunchytown and I quickly realize that I need no plan. Every day there is something to do, or spontaneously something is done. It is very dynamic with so many people, one has an idea, and if others like that then this is done. Board games, football, go somewhere by car, spontaneous party – the possibilities are really limitless.
Behind all this is Sam who has a wonderful way to involve people. He keeps track of the people that come and go and chooses persons from the Couchsurfing requests. He says it needs the right mix of people to make it work. Not everyone knows how to get involved in a community like this, especially young travelers are inexperienced or overwhelmed at the beginning. But Sam gives everyone a chance and knows that it is for some people a good and important experience to be in Crunchytown – even if they are unable to participate fully at that moment.
Sam understands it to motivate people to do things that hardly anyone likes to do and he sets always a good example. So many people create a lot of filth and chaos. Keep the kitchen clean, tidy up and organize food – there is always something to do.
The fridge is almost always full, the cupboards also. But nobody goes shopping here, at least not in the conventional way. All the food is dumpster-dived, from rubbish bins of supermarkets and grocery stores. The quality of the food is high and the amount frightening. There is always enough bread, apples and potatoes in abundance, all sorts of vegetables and fruits, eggs, milk and meat, which is often still frozen or at least cold. Chocolate, beer, wine, underpants, kitchen utensils, tomato plants, tools, clothing – over time just about anything can be found in one of the garbage dumpsters.
The reasons are manifold: Legal regulations which dictate a date of expiry after that food may no longer be sold even though it is still good. Supermarkets which overstock and prefer to buy rather too much than too little. Consumers who want to buy only perfect looking fruits and vegetables and a marketing strategy that focuses on a giant variety and oversupply.
It’s scary how much is thrown away, wasted, and at the same time it is good for us. Here we feed more than 20 people on a daily basis with the waste of only three supermarkets. Three to five times per week we go by car to the loading bays, bring large boxes and open the dumpsters. Sometimes they are locked, sometimes empty or full with real garbage, but mostly full of food. Often it is so much that we pick only the best and what we need. We pack the boxes full and carry them to the car, no one seems to care, only sometimes staff of the supermarkets start to shout: “Thieves, F*** off!” A lot of food is packaged in plastic and absolutely clean. At home everyone helps to clean the stuff and to sort it, cook it and of course eat it. Nobody has to go hungry, everything is for everyone and we eat like kings.
It is a big family and it doesn´t take long until I feel as a part of it and open up more. For a long time I haven´t lived such a community life and it is really good for me. From the rather silent observer of the first days I become a living part of this community. A resident of the house, a member of the family, a crunchy. With the time I even become one of the persons here who put more time and energy in this house than others. It fulfills me to care, to feel responsible for this home which I share with so many other people.
Here is such a positive energy, dreams become reality and strangers become friends. Crunchytown is also a secure place, a safe space to try new things, to leave someones comfort zone and to make new experiences. People care and look after each other, no one needs to be alone or worried.
It is so nice to see how people thrive here. Some do it faster and some take a little longer, but after some time everyone lets the masks and barriers fall, loses the fears to be judged and is just oneself. For almost everyone here it is a learning experience that no one will ever forget.
Only when it is finally time to leave Crunchytown (and Australia), just then I realize how badly it has become my home and how many new friends I have made here.
Because to build close friendships someone needs to spend time with people, needs to share experiences, hold discussions, share lifes. And that, in the last few years of my trip, wasn´t so often the case. Too short were many encounters and many times I could only lay the foundation for friendships. But after my time here in Crunchy Town I start with new strength, good memories in my mind and friends in my heart.
Even though I didn´t take many photos during my time I would like to complement the words with a few faces of some of the crunchys: